Some general conclusions on introducing self-study in forms 10 (all year long) and 11 (one semester only)

May 2012


After working for one year on the introduction of the Self-study Technology into my work with forms 10 (during the whole year) and 11 (for one semester only), I came up with the following conclusions:

  • As a teacher, I have difficulty with distinguishing aims-objectives-activities. I used the material from EU website and it helped to clarify this point. However, more help would be required: a systemic document explaining this difference.
  • Students are too general and are not specific in defining their aims-objectives. As a teacher I find it difficult to give feedback re how to improve and be more specific. 
  • The first organisational mistake was to work too long on making students write their aims/objectives/activities/ etc. Probably, the following organisational structure might be more useful and operational:
    • One lesson on explaining what is self-study, aims-objectives-activities. 
    • Homework: write aims-objectives-activities-time (doc. self-study plan)
    • Submit prepared texts for feedback and get back with teachers comments.
    • Improve aims-objectives-activities text (write second version of self-study plan)
    • Two plans should be present in the folder.
  • When I uploaded the document re difference between aims-objectives and their being specific on the website, many students downloaded it (though I didn’t ask them to), which can be explained by their interest in defining their aims/objectives.
  • I found it difficult to trace self-study activities. During the second semester, I came up with the following structure:
    • Students submit self-study account before every test. This way I check what they planned to do, what they managed to accomplish and what they still plan to do. 
    • Self-study portfolio is presented only at the end of semester
  • Many students use ‘listening to the songs’ as an activity. They do not introduce anything new in what they have been doing so far. I find it difficult to evaluate that and make them change. Some students say that’s their self-study but I see it’s an excuse and they are doing nothing. I lack skills to change that situation and students’ attitude. 
  • Before every test I ask students to prepare reflections on their learning. The following questions were asked (to be replied in writing):
    • How would you evaluate your work during this month? What was successful in your work? What would you like to improve? What mark would you give yourself?
    • Which tasks/activities that we did helped you to learn better? Which ones did you enjoy most of all?
    • Which tasks/activities were the least helpful for you and didn’t help you to learn? Why?
    • Any other suggestions/comments you would like to give?
    • Do you feel you are making any progress in HOW you learn or do you keep to the same style as you had during these years? If you feel any progress can you specify what the changes are in the way you work?

This gives me as a teacher a picture of what students like and think about learning, activities we do. Even though the reflections influence the number of points students can get for the test, quite many of them approach this issue superficially, and they either do not submit reflections or write superficial/not specific answers. Though, this is not connected with the self-study, I find it important to mention it here as I consider it to be connected with learners’ awareness about their own learning.

  • Some students misinterpret the concept of the self-study and mix it with the classroom activities, thinking self-study means that the teacher does not explain anything and they do everything on their own, including classroom tasks and homework.
  • When making the final portfolio presentation I will ask students to reply the following questions in writing and present the answer to their classmates (1 min):
    • 1. Which topic/topics did you work on during this semester and why? (example - Grammar, past tenses, because...)
    • 2. Which tasks did you do and how often? (example - I did 5 tasks on tense 1, 2 every Saturday...)
    • 3. What is the result of your self-study and how do you evaluate it? (example - I make only 1 mistake in exercises on tense 1, 2, etc. I believe I achieved my aim).
    • 4. What advice can you give to your classmates? How can they learn from your experience? (example - if you want to work with tense 1, I suggest you use website XXXX, book XXX, etc.)
  • I fail to control, evaluate properly, and give appropriate feedback. Many difficulties I face I connect with my personality, lack of self-organisation and ability to control. Another part of difficulties is connected with the lack of experience as a teacher. I lack practical experience re what to expect from students and how to prevent some difficulties in advance, where to be more demanding, where not to exaggerate.
  • I do not see self-study as a system but mainly try to organise separate activities. I do not feel I am building a system. What constitutes a system and distinguishes it from a series of separate activities? How to know the difference and move towards a system?
  • I started doubting that I have good thinking skills and that I really understand what’s that. If I am a bad thinker and do not clearly realise what ‘thinking’ means how can I develop my learners’ thinking skills?


# Alexander Sokol 2012-06-18 18:15
Renata, there are several issues you are touching upon here, so I will write several comments to separate the discussions. Let me start with the most general thing. The question of effective organisation is always an issue in self-study. The best thing in my experience (and I've tried quite a few) is an online portfolio. It really makes the whole thing different. Now the student doesn't need any technical things for launching an online portolio and it gives so many additional resources for learning. Have you ever considered this option? There are a few online portfolios of my former students that are still available online. You can see this, for example:
These are both good examples but you can find various quality if you look up the forum of e-portfolios at
Do you think you could consider launching sth like this with your students?
# Renata Jonina 2012-06-18 22:44
Thanks for comments, Alexander. I'll be replying in turn.
I have once seen portfolios of your students and the idea looks good. In fact, at a certain point I really felt that launching web2.0. page would be useful for organising, monitoring, sharing and learning. But I never considered using e-portfolios. I'll check the options.
# Alexander Sokol 2012-06-18 18:18
Another thing that changed self-study quite significantly with me was a move from plans to problem-network based approach to self-study. Please see this handout on problem networks for self-study:
If students start putting real problems there, self-study becomes much more real.
# Renata Jonina 2012-06-18 22:46
I've heard about problem-network and I believe it might really be a qualitative turn in organising self-study. In fact, it might solve my problem I voiced in one of the posts, namely, 'selling' self-study as a problem-solving tool.
# Alexander Sokol 2012-06-18 18:20
Re aim - objective - activities. You can produce a doc, of course, but I don't think it will change anything. The difficulty here is that it requires procedural rather than declarative knowledge, ie you can only improve through doing it rather than reading. This, in fact, refers to most of TA related things. Yet, if you are interested in the explanation, I'd recommend a tutorial on planning at
# Renata Jonina 2012-06-18 22:49
I agree here. At the same time, at least some 'declarative' support is useful at the initial stage.
Re EU website and procedural things, you are right I am sure many questions might be answered once I go through the systems myself.
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